Shoot to deceive

Posted: Aug 31, 2006 3:30 PM

When is an anti-gunner a pro-gun advocate? The obvious answer is never, but that’s too simple a response. The actual answer is “any time a member of the media wants to portray the anti-gunner in a pro-gun light”. Take, for example, a new article in The New Republic entitled “Gun Crazy: The Revolt Against the NRA” by Michael Blanding. Blanding, a freelance writer from Boston, profiles the group calling itself American Hunters and Shooters Association. AHSA bills itself as a “moderate alternative to the NRA”, but in reality it’s an organization founded by leaders in the anti-gun movement who have strong ties to the Brady Campaign.

Blanding’s article calls John Rosenthal, the president of AHSA’s foundation, a “Boston real estate developer who served a stint on the board of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.” But the article also quotes Rosenthal as saying he left the Brady Campaign because of the organization’s “extreme anti-gun stance”. Blanding leaves out any mention of the fact that Rosenthal created, and still runs, the Massachusetts-based outfit known as Stop Handgun Violence. Despite the fact that Blanding is from Boston, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Rosenthal didn’t volunteer that information and Blanding simply didn’t do his research. Then I found an article in Boston Magazine from February 2006 entitled “Straight Shooter”. It’s a glowing profile of John Rosenthal, complete with many mentions of his work with Stop Handgun Violence, and Michael Blanding wrote it.

In May of this year Blanding wrote another piece for Boston Magazine called “The Ways of the Gun”, in which he makes the case that Boston’s rising crime rate is the fault of other states with less restrictive gun laws. In that article Blanding describes Rosenthal as an “anti-gun activist”, but now he’s a pro-gun moderate alternative to the NRA. Why? Because Blanding didn’t write a TNR article about the need for more gun control, he wrote an article about liberals trying to woo gun-owners. To accurately portray Rosenthal as someone who helped pass Massachusetts’ Gun Control Act of 1998 does nothing to win the hearts and minds of gun owners.

Blanding commits the same sin of omission when describing AHSA’s Executive Director, Robert Ricker. Ricker is described as “a former NRA general counsel and lobbyist for the firearms industry”, which is incorrect. Ricker spent a brief period of time as one of the attorneys in the General Counsel’s office, but was never general counsel himself. Blanding fails to mention that Ricker switched sides, so to speak, back in the late 1990’s, and has since testified as an expert witness for those hoping to hold gun manufacturers and sellers responsible for the actions of criminals. Chris Cox, NRA-ILA’s Executive Director, wrote an article about AHSA (found here) in which he details testimony Ricker gave in a 2005 deposition. Ricker testified that his two biggest clients were the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (part of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence) and the group Virginians for Public Safety. Ricker also testified that AHSA was another of his clients, and paid him $3,000 a month for his services. Again, Blanding apparently didn’t want to let his readers know Ricker’s entire background.

I realize that for Blanding, AHSA represents a new and exciting attempt to mislead gun owners (we’re talking about a writer who once penned a “Culture of Life Top Ten” wish list for the ultra-lefty Alternet, in which he expressed his desire that Congress would pass Massachusetts-style gun control laws). New or not, AHSA is trying to deceive gun owners into buying into an anti-gun movement and to give anti-gun politicians a bit of pro-gun cover. From the tens of thousands of dollars its leaders have donated to candidates like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Nancy Pelosi to the fact that the press contact for this supposedly non-partisan organization is also the head of the Fairfax City (Virginia) Democratic Committee, American Hunters and Shooters Association isn’t out to protect your rights. They’re out to deceive you, and Michael Blanding appears happy to help.